CIVICUS Report Exposes a Civil Society Under Attack

The State of Civil Society report from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance which was officially launched on March 30, 2023, exposes the gross violations of civic space. Credit CIVICUS

The State of Civil Society report from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance which was officially launched on March 30, 2023, exposes the gross violations of civic space. Credit CIVICUS

By Joyce Chimbi
NAIROBI, Mar 31 2023 (IPS)

As conflict and crises escalate to create human emergencies that have displaced over 100 million people worldwide, civil society’s vital role of advocating for victims and monitoring human rights cannot be over-emphasised.

The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize award to activists and organisations in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine for working to uphold human rights in the thick of conflict underpins this role.

Yet this has not stopped gross violations of civic space as exposed by the State of Civil Society report from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, which was officially launched on March 30, 2023.

“This year’s report is the 12th in its annual published series, and it is a critical look back on 2022. Exploring trends in civil society action, at every level and in every arena, from struggles for democracy, inclusion, and climate justice to demands for global governance reform,” said Ines Pousadela from CIVICUS.

The report particularly highlights the many ways civil society comes under attack, caught in the crossfire and or deliberately targeted. For instance, the Russian award winner, the human rights organisation Memorial, was ordered to close in the run-up to the war. The laureate from Belarus, Ales Bialiatski, received a 10-year jail sentence.

Mandeep Tiwana stressed that the repression of civic voices and actions is far from unique. In Ethiopia, “activists have been detained by the state. In Mali, the ruling military junta has banned activities of CSOs that receive funding from France, hampering humanitarian support to those affected by conflict. In Italy, civil society groups face trial for rescuing migrants at sea.”

Ines Pousadela at the launch of the CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Ines Pousadela at the launch of the CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Spanning over six chapters titled responding to conflict and crisis, mobilising for economic justice, defending democracy, advancing women’s and LGBTQI+ rights, sounding the alarm on the climate emergency and urging global governance reform, the analysis presented by the report draws from an ongoing analysis initiative, CIVICUS Lens.

On responding to conflict and crisis, Oleksandra Matviichuk from the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine spoke about the Russian invasion and the subsequent “unprecedented levels of war crimes against civilians such as torture and rape. And, a lack of accountability despite documented evidence of crimes against civilians.”

Bhavani Fonseka, from the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lanka, addressed the issue of mobilising for economic justice and how Sri Lanka captured the world’s attention one year ago through protests that start small in neighbourhoods and ultimately led to the President fleeing the country.

Launched in January 2022, CIVICUS Lens is directly informed by the voices of civil society affected by and responding to the major issues and challenges of the day.

Through this lens, a civil society perspective of the world as it stands in early 2023 has emerged: one plagued by conflict and crises, including democratic values and institutions, but in which civil society continues to strive to make a crucial difference in people’s lives.

On defending democracy, Amine Ghali of the Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center in Tunisia spoke about the challenge of removing authoritarian regimes, making significant progress in levels of democracy only for the country to regress to authoritarianism.

“It starts with the narrative that democracy is not delivering; let me have all the power so that I can deliver for you. But they do not deliver. All they do is consolidate power. A government with democratic legitimacy demolishing democracy is where we are in Tunisia,” he said.

Erika Venadero from the National Network of Diverse Youth, Mexico, spoke about the country’s journey that started in the 1960s towards egalitarian marriages. Today, same-sex marriages are provided for in the law.

On global governance reforms, Ben Donaldson from UNA-UK spoke about global governance institutional failure and the need to improve what is working and reform what is not, with a special focus on the UN Security Council.

“It is useful to talk about Ukraine and the shortcomings of the UN Security Council. A member of the UN State Council is unable to hold one of its members accountable. There are, therefore, tensions at the heart of the UN. The President of Ukraine and many others ask, what is the UN for if it cannot stop the Ukraine invasion?”

Baraka, a youthful climate activist and sustainability consultant in Uganda, spoke about ongoing efforts to stop a planned major pipeline project which will exacerbate the ongoing climate crisis, affecting lives and livelihoods.

His concerns and actions are in line with the report findings that “civil society continues to be the force sounding the alarm on the triple threat of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. Urging action using every tactic available, from street protest and direct action to litigation and advocacy in national and global arenas.”

But in the context of pressures on civic space and huge challenges, the report further finds that “civil society is growing, diversifying and widening its repertoire of tactics.”

Moving forward, the report highlights 10 ideas, including an urgent need for a broad-based campaign to win recognition of civil society’s vital role in conflict and crisis response as well as greater emphasis by civil society and supportive states on protecting freedom of peaceful assembly.

Additionally, the need for civil society to work with supportive states to take forward plans for UN Security Council reform and proposals to open up the UN and other international institutions to much greater public participation and scrutiny.

In all, strengthening and enhancing the membership and reach of transnational civil society networks to enable the rapid deployment of solidarity and support when rights come under attack was also strongly encouraged.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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The Need for a Strong Legal Treaty on Business & Human Rights

The open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights was established in 2014 in response to Human Rights Council resolution 26/9 with a mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

By Simone Galimberti
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Mar 31 2023 (IPS)

The ongoing discussions on an internationally treaty, described as a “legally binding instrument” on business and human rights, remains one of the most neglected issues that should instead command the attention of the public.

Such a legal tool would bind companies to uphold high standards and most importantly, it would entail mandatory guarantees for accessible and inclusive remedy and therefore, clear liabilities for victims of alleged abuses perpetrated by companies.

It all started in 2014 when two nations of the South, Ecuador and South Africa successfully pushed for a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on the establishment of a so called “international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights”.

By reading the title of the resolution you can immediately realize that one of the conundrums being discussed is the overarching scope of such treaty especially in the reference of the nature of the companies being subject to it.

In practice, would only multinational or also national private corporations come under its jurisdiction?

Interestingly, at the Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) created to draft the text of the treaty, many developing nations, for example, like Indonesia, were strongly advocating for only multinationals to be included.

This is a position of convenience that would exclude local major operators involved in the plantations business from coming under scrutiny of the treaty.

Other complex issues are centered on the liability especially in relation to instances where a corporation is “only” directly linked to the harm rather than cause.

As explained by Tara Van Ho, a lecturer at the University of Essex School of Law and Human Rights Centre, if “a business is only “directly linked to” the harm, it does not need to provide remedies but can instead use its “leverage” to affect change in its business partners.”

The difference between causing or contributing to harm and instead being only liked to it can be subtle and remain an exclusive debate among scholars, but its repercussions could or could not ensure justice to millions of people victims of corporate abuses.

Another point of attrition is the complex issue of the statutes of limitations and the role of domestic jurisdiction over the future treaty.

With all these challenges, after 8 years of negotiations, the drafting is moving in slow motion amid a general disinterest among state parties, as explained by Elodie Aba for Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

An issue that should capture global attention has instead become a realm of technical discussions among governments, academicians and civil society members without generating mass awareness about it.

The need for a treaty related to abuses of corporations is almost self-evident, considering the gigantic proofs that have been emerging both in the North and South.

Despite nice words and token initiatives, the private sector has been more than often keen to close its eyes before abuses occurring through its direct actions or throughout its supply chains.

Amid weak legislations, especially in developing countries, the hard job of trying to keep companies accountable, until now, has depended on a set of non-binding, voluntary procedures formally known as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Principles, prepared by late Harvard Professor John G. Ruggie in his capacity as UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, proved to be a useful but at the same time inadequate tool.

It has been useful because it was instrumental in raising the issue of human rights within the corporate sector, something that was for too long and till recently, a taboo.

In order to further mainstream it, for example, a UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has been established as a special procedure within UN Human Rights.

Along the years, this independent group, composed by pro bono academicians, has carried out considerable work to strengthen both the understanding of and the adherence to the Principles.

There is no doubt that there have been attempts at going deeper, especially from the legal point of view on the Principles, especially on their articles related to right to remedy, the thorniest issue.

In this regard, the Accountability and Remedy Project have been providing a whole set of insights through multiple consultations and discussions, a process that still ongoing with the overall purpose of making a stronger cases on “the right to remedy, a core tenet of the international human rights system”.

Yet principles, UN Global Compact, are toothless tool and showed considerable limitations, starting from the most obvious element, the fact that they are not binding.

In the meantime, in 2021 the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, on occasion of their 10th anniversary of the Principles, launched road map for the next 10 years.

It is actions, despite their intrinsic limitations due to the nature of the Principles, should be supported but more financial resources are indispensable. Yet finding the financial resources or better the political will to do so remains an issue.

A recommendation from late Prof. Ruggie to create a Voluntary Fund for Business and Human Rights did not go anywhere.

“The Fund would provide a mechanism for supporting projects developed at local and national levels that would increase the capacity of governments to fulfill their obligations in this area as well as strengthen efforts by business enterprises and associations, trade unions, non-governmental organizations and others seeking to advance implementation of the Guiding Principles”.

Even more worrisome is the fact that till now a new Special Representative for Business and Human Rights has not been appointed yet.

Having an authoritative figure, especially a former head of state rather than an academician, could help bring more visibility to the ongoing “behind the curtain” discussions related to the need for a strong Treaty.

Such a political figure could not only command a stronger attention on the issue but also provide “cover” to the delicate work of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, complementing and strengthening its mandate.

Engagement with the education sector, law and business schools, as advocated by a report published by Business and Human Rights Asia, a UNDP Program, can be essential.

Together with a stronger media coverage, students and academicians can help elevate the issue of human rights and its linkages with the private sector.

We could imagine competitions among students at national and international levels on how the principles can be better implemented as a “bridge” tool towards a binding legal mechanism.

Students could also have a major say on the opaque drafting process of this treaty.

At the end of the day, there will be compromises and shortcomings, but with a bigger bottom-up approach, a strong Treaty could become a “global” Escazu’, the first ever binding environment agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean.

UNDP with its Business and Human Rights Asia unit that recently organized in Kathmandu an excellent 4th UN South Asia Forum on Business and Human Rights. But it could also be bolder.

The forum did a great job at giving voice to indigenous people, one of the key stakeholders in the global negotiations for the treaty.

A lot of discussions were rightly held on the impact of issues like climate change and migration and their links with businesses’ attitudes and behaviors towards local populations.

Yet, there was no conversation nor on the treaty nor on the future evolution of the principles. It might certainly be an issue of a limited “mandate” but UNDP could, together with UN Human Rights, be a neutral enabler on a global discussion on the treaty and on how the Principles can further evolve while we wait for such a legal tool.

The Principles should also be better linked with the UN Compact, creating more synergies and coordination between the two.

The fact that nations like France, Germany and the Netherlands have been stepping up with new vigorous legislations in the field of business and human rights is extremely positive.

Equally important is the commitment of the EU to come up with Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) or the OECD to revise its Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct but the nations behind these initiatives must commit to the drafting process of the Treaty.

Otherwise, we run the risk that discussions will continue without anyone caring about them. Such an unfortunate situation must truly be “remedied’ with the right smart mix, political will, starting from the Secretary General and a powerful alliance of progressive nations in the both South and North driving the process and involving other peer nations.

Ultimately civil society must also step up beyond their technical and legal recommendations and truly engage the people.

Simone Galimberti is the co-founder of ENGAGE and of the Good Leadership, Good for You & Good for the Society.

Opinions expressed are personal.

IPS UN Bureau


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International Women’s Day, 2023World Parliaments Could Take Another 80 Years to Achieve Gender Parity Among Legislators

Despite advances in gender representation in legislative bodies, the track record of women in the executive branches of government – as heads of state or heads of government — remains low.

By Thalif Deen

For the first time in history, says a new report from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), not a single functioning parliament in the world is “male-only”.

Is the increasing number of women in parliaments a singular achievement for gender empowerment? Or is it the result of mandatory legislative quotas for women’s representation in world’s parliaments?

According to the latest IPU report, Women in Parliament 2022, women’s participation in parliament has never been as diverse and representative as it is in many countries today.

The findings are based on the 47 countries that held elections in 2022. In those elections, women took an average 25.8% of seats up for election or appointment. This represents a 2.3 percentage point increase compared to previous renewals in these chambers.

Brazil saw a record 4,829 women who identify as Black running for election (out of 26,778 candidates); in the US, a record number of women of colour (263) stood in the midterm elections; LGBTQI+ representation in Colombia tripled from two to six members of the Congress; and in France, 32 candidates from minority backgrounds were elected to the new National Assembly, an all-time high of 5.8% of the total.

The report said legislated quotas were again a decisive factor in the increases seen in women’s representation.

Thomas Fitzsimons, IPU’s Director of Communications told IPS there are many factors that explain the successes of the countries that have made progress.

For example, he pointed out, technological and operational transformations, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have increased the potential for parliaments to become more gender-sensitive and family-friendly.

“The influence of gender issues on election outcomes, with increased awareness of discrimination and gender-based violence, as well as alliances with other social movements, also helped drive strong results for women in some of the parliamentary elections,” he noted.

“But if we had to choose one primary factor, it would be legislated quotas. Legislated quotas enshrined in the constitution and/or electoral laws require that a minimum number of candidates are women (or of the under-represented sex),” he said.

Chambers with legislated quotas or combined with voluntary party quotas produced a significantly higher share of women than those without in the 2022 elections (30.9% versus 21.2%).

“As for the future, we need to accelerate the momentum which is still too slow. At current rates of growth, it will take another 80 years before we reach parity,” Fitzsimons declared.

Antonia Kirkland Global Lead — Legal Equality and Access to Equality Now, told IPS it is encouraging to see IPU’s data revealing that more women than ever are in political decision-making roles globally, and there has been an overall increase in the number of women in both government and parliamentary posts.

IPU’s data clearly demonstrates that quotas on women’s representation have had a positive, big impact. Countries applying quotas have enjoyed a 9.7% increase in women in parliaments in comparison to countries without, she said.

“However, it is lamentable that women are still so underrepresented at all levels of political decision-making, accounting for only 9.8% of Heads of Government and just over a quarter of MPs. It is also deeply concerning that gender parity in parliaments is at least 80 years away if we continue at the current pace.”

With the World Bank finding that only 14 countries have full legal equality between women and men, and UN Women gaging it will take another 286 years to eliminate gaps in legal protections, duty bearers must create a safe and empowering environment for women to engage in politics that fosters greater legal equality, said Kirkland.

She said more needs to be done to increase women’s political representation by understanding and removing obstacles that impede women’s participation in the public sphere and decision-making.

“To accelerate gender parity in parliaments, we need an end to sex-discriminatory laws in all areas of life which hold women back from engaging in politics in the first place.”

Political parties should highlight the importance and advantages of gender diversity, and implement initiatives that involve women in politics at all stages and within all branches of the political arena.

IPU’s report, she pointed out, shows that a shocking percentage of women in parliament are subjected to gender-based violence and sexual harassment in their own parliaments, on the streets, and in the digital world. Concerted efforts are required to tackle head-on gender-based violence and abuse targeting women politicians both online and offline.

Governments, parliamentarians, the private sector, and civil society need to seize every opportunity – such as the upcoming UN Global Digital Compact – to work together so that women are protected from online abuse. Perpetrates and those who facilitate or provide platforms for such abuse must be held accountable.

“Tackling this problem would result in less self-censorship by parliamentarians, greater interest from girls and young women to serve in government, and ultimately stronger democracies that are both more peaceful and gender-equal, declared Kirkland.

At the regional level, the report said, six countries now have gender parity (or a greater share of women than men) in their lower or single chamber as of 1 January 2023. New Zealand joined last year’s club of five consisting of Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the top of the IPU’s authoritative global ranking of women in parliament.

Other notable gains in women’s representation were recorded in Australia (the strongest outcome of the year with a record 56.6% of seats won by women in the Senate), Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Malta and Slovenia.

High stakes elections in Angola, Kenya and Senegal all saw positive strides for women. Wide divides characterized results in Asia: record numbers of women were elected to the historically male-dominated Senate in Japan but in India, elections to the upper chamber led to women occupying only 15.1% of seats, well below the global and regional averages.

The Pacific saw the highest growth rate in women’s representation out of all the regions, gaining 1.7 percentage points to reach an overall average of 22.6% women in parliament. Every Pacific parliament now has at least one-woman legislator.

In the 15 European chambers that were renewed in 2022, there was little shift in women’s representation, stagnating at 31%.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, seven chambers were renewed in 2022. On average, women were elected to 16.3% of the seats in these chambers, the lowest regional percentage in the world for elections held in the year. Three countries were below 10%: Algeria (upper chamber: 4.3%), Kuwait (6.3%) and Lebanon (6.3%).

Bahrain is an outlier in the region with a record eight women elected to the lower chamber, including many first-time lawmakers. 73 women ran for election to the lower chamber (out of a total of 330 candidates) compared with the 41 women who ran in the last election in 2018. Ten women were also appointed to the 40-member upper chamber.

The IPU is the global organization of national parliaments. It was founded more than 133 years ago as the first multilateral political organization in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 178 national Member Parliaments and 14 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced and more representative. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of MPs from around the world.

For more information about the IPU, contact Thomas Fitzsimons at e-mail: or or tel: +41(0) 79 854 31 53

IPS UN Bureau Report


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This feature is part of a series to mark International Women’s Day, March 8. Source

Racist Political System Thwarts Candidacy of Mayan Woman in Guatemala

Thelma Cabrera and Jordán Rodas launch their candidacy for the presidency and vice presidency of Guatemala in December 2022, which has been vetoed by the courts, in a maneuver that has drawn criticism from human rights groups at home and abroad. CREDIT: Twitter

Thelma Cabrera and Jordán Rodas launch their candidacy for the presidency and vice presidency of Guatemala in December 2022, which has been vetoed by the courts, in a maneuver that has drawn criticism from human rights groups at home and abroad. CREDIT: Twitter

By Edgardo Ayala
SANTA CATARINA PALOPÓ, Guatemala, Mar 4 2023 (IPS)

Centuries of racism and exclusion suffered by indigenous peoples in Guatemala continue to weigh heavily, as demonstrated by the denial of the registration of a political party that is promoting the presidential candidacy of indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera in the upcoming general elections.

On Mar. 2, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled against Cabrera’s party, the leftist Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP), which had appealed a Feb. 15 Supreme Court resolution that left them out of the Jun. 25 elections.“There is a racist system and structure, and we indigenous people have barely managed to start climbing the steps, but with great difficulty and zero opportunities.” — Silvia Menchú

Cabrera’s candidacy and that of her vice-presidential running-mate Jordán Rodas are now hanging by a thread, with their hopes depending on a few last resort legal challenges.

The deadline for the registration of candidates is Mar. 25.


A centuries-old racist system

Guatemala’s political and economic elites “are looking for ways to keep her (Cabrera) from registering; everyone has the right to participate, but they are blocking her,” Sonia Nimacachi, 31, a native of Santa Catarina Palopó, told IPS. The municipality, which has a Cachiquel Mayan indigenous majority, is in the southwestern Guatemalan department of Sololá.

“We would like a person with our roots and culture to become president, I think it would help our people,” added Nimacachi, standing by her street stall in the center of town.

Nimacachi, a Cachiquel Mayan woman, sells “granizadas” or snow cones: crushed ice sweetened with syrup of various flavors, perfect for hot days.

“There is a racist system and structure, and we indigenous people have barely managed to start climbing the steps, but with great difficulty and zero opportunities,” Silvia Menchú, director of the K’ak’a Na’oj (New Knowledge, in Cachiquel) Association for the Development of Women, told IPS.

The organization, based in Santa Catarina Palopó, carries out human rights programs focused on indigenous women.


Santa Catarina Palopó, a picturesque Cachiquel Mayan town located on the shore of Lake Atitlán in the southwestern Guatemalan department of Sololá, is preparing for the upcoming general elections, where voters will choose a new president, vice president, 160 members of Congress, 20 members of the Central American Parliament, as well as 340 mayors. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Santa Catarina Palopó, a picturesque Cachiquel Mayan town located on the shore of Lake Atitlán in the southwestern Guatemalan department of Sololá, is preparing for the upcoming general elections, where voters will choose a new president, vice president, 160 members of Congress, 20 members of the Central American Parliament, as well as 340 mayors. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS


“Racism has prevailed, we are mistreated everywhere by the government and the authorities, we are seen as people with little capacity,” said Menchú, of the Maya Quiché ethnic group.

An alleged illegality attributed to Rodas, the vice-presidential candidate, was the cause for denying the MLP the right to register for the elections.

Analysts and social organizations perceive obscure maneuvering on the part of the powers-that-be, who cannot accept the idea that an indigenous woman is trying to break through the barriers of the country’s rigid, racist political system.

Cabrera is a 51-year-old Mayan Mam woman who is trying for a second time to run in the unequal fight for the presidency of this Central American country of 14.9 million inhabitants.

Of the total population, 43.7 percent identify as indigenous Mayan, Xinca, Garífuna and Afro-descendant peoples, according to the 2018 census.

In the 2019 elections Cabrera came in fourth place, winning 10 percent of the total votes cast.

In the Jun. 25 general elections voters will choose a new president for the period 2024-2028, as well as 160 members of Congress and 20 members of the Central American Parliament, and 340 mayors.

In Guatemala, the ancient Mayan culture was flourishing when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century.

The descendants of that pre-Hispanic civilization still speak 24 different autochthonous languages, most of which are Mayan.

Years of exclusion and neglect of indigenous rural populations led Guatemala to a civil war that lasted 36 years (1960-1996) and left some 250,000 dead or disappeared.


The presidential candidacy of Thelma Cabrera, of the Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP), must be allowed by the Guatemalan authorities, so that the indigenous population is represented in the Jun. 25 elections, says Silvia Menchú, director of the K’ak’a Na’oj (New Knowledge, in Cachiquel) Association for the Development of Women. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The presidential candidacy of Thelma Cabrera, of the Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP), must be allowed by the Guatemalan authorities, so that the indigenous population is represented in the Jun. 25 elections, says Silvia Menchú, director of the K’ak’a Na’oj (New Knowledge, in Cachiquel) Association for the Development of Women. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS


A blatant maneuver

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s (TSE) rejection of the MLP arose from a complaint against Rodas, who served between 2017 and 2022 as head of the Office for the Defense of Human Rights.

In that office, Rodas strongly questioned alleged acts of corruption by the current government of Alejandro Giammattei, who took office in January 2020.

The criminal complaint against the vice-presidential candidate was filed on Jan. 6 by the current head of the Office for the Defense of Human Rights, Alejandro Córdoba.

After Cabrera and Rodas attempted to register as candidates, Córdoba said he had “doubts” about some payments allegedly received by his predecessor in the Office for the Defense of Human Rights.

His “doubts” apparently had to do with some alleged illegality on the part of Rodas, but since Córdoba has not described it in detail, his statements have been nothing but a weak half-hearted accusation.

However, that was enough for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to reject the MLP on Feb. 2, which triggered protests by rural and indigenous people, who blocked roads in at least 12 parts of the country.

According to Guatemalan law, all candidates for popularly elected positions must have a document that attests that they have no pending legal issues.

But analysts have pointed out that this document should only take into account actual legal rulings handed down by courts, and not “doubts” vaguely expressed by some government official.

By vetoing Rodas, the TSE automatically bars his presidential runningmate Cabrera, who may actually be the ultimate target of the maneuver, since she is the one who is trying, once again, to win the votes of the indigenous population.

On Feb. 15, the MLP runningmates filed a provisional injunction with the Supreme Court, so that it would take effect immediately and overrule the TSE’s decision, while the Supreme Court studied and resolved the matter in depth.

But the injunction was rejected, so the MLP appealed the next day to the Constitutional Court, asking it to review the case and order the Supreme Court to admit the provisional injunction, to allow the fight for the registration of Cabrera and Rodas to continue forward.

But the appeal was denied Thursday Mar. 2 by the Constitutional Court.

However, the Supreme Court has not yet issued a final ruling on the injunction, but only a provisional stance. This means that when it is finally issued, if it goes against the MLP, Cabrera and Rodas could once again turn to the Constitutional Court, in a last-ditch effort.

But it seems as if the die is already cast.

In a tweet on Thursday Mar. 2, Rodas wrote: “The constitutional justice system has denied my constitutional right to be elected and denies the population the right to choose freely. We await the Supreme Court ruling on the injunction and the position of the @IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights). Our fight continues.”


Guatemala's political and economic elites are determined to block the candidacy of indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera, says Sonia Nimacachi, a Cachiquel Mayan woman selling snowcones in Santa Catarina Palopó, in the country's southwest. She would vote for Cabrera again, if her candidacy is finally allowed. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Guatemala’s political and economic elites are determined to block the candidacy of indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera, says Sonia Nimacachi, a Cachiquel Mayan woman selling snowcones in Santa Catarina Palopó, in the country’s southwest. She would vote for Cabrera again, if her candidacy is finally allowed. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS


Cabrera’s second attempt

This is Cabrera’s second attempt to run for the presidency. Her first was in the 2019 elections, when she failed to fully capture the indigenous vote.

“I would dare to think that the majority of the indigenous population did not vote for her because of those instilled prejudices: that she is a woman and also indigenous, not a professional, are issues that have nothing to do with the dignity and the quality of a person,” argued Silvia Menchú.

She added that the right-wing parties have been allies of the country’s evangelical churches, through which they keep in submission segments of the indigenous population that end up supporting conservative parties, rather than a candidate who comes from their Mayan culture.

To illustrate, she said that in Santa Catarina Palopó, a town of 6,000 people, there is only one school to cover primary and middle-school education, “but there are about 15 evangelical churches.”

The TSE’s veto of the registration of Cabrera and Rodas puts the credibility of the elections at risk, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) warned on Feb. 27.

In a joint statement, the two organizations said the electoral authority’s rejection of aspiring candidates “is based on dubious grounds, puts political rights at risk, and undermines the credibility of the electoral process.”

“The electoral process is taking place in the context of a decline in the rule of law, in which the institutions responsible for overseeing the elections have little independence or credibility,” they stated.

In addition to Cabrera and Rodas, the TSE also rejected the registration of right-wing candidate Roberto Arzú, because he allegedly began campaigning too early.

HRW and Wola added that “efforts to exclude or prosecute opposition candidates create unequal conditions that could prevent free and fair elections from taking place.”

Meanwhile, the TSE did endorse, on Feb. 4, the presidential candidacy of Zury Ríos, daughter of General Efraín Ríos Montt, who governed de facto between 1982 and 1983.

In 2013 the general was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacre of more than 1,400 indigenous Ixil people in the north of the country.

He was sentenced to 80 years in prison, but the Constitutional Court later revoked the ruling. Ríos Montt died in April 2018.

Article 186 of the Guatemalan constitution prohibits people involved in coups d’état, or their relatives, for running for president.

Meanwhile, snowcone vendor Sonia Nimacachi said in the central square of Santa Catarina Palopó that she still held out hope that Cabrera would be able to register as a candidate.

“If they let her participate, I would vote for her again,” she said, while serving a customer.


Climate Crisis is a Child Crisis and Climate-Resilient Children, Teachers and Schools Must Become Top International Agenda

From climate change to child marriage, education is seen as the solution. ECW Director Yasmine Sherif protests early marriage with young delegates at the Education Cannot Wait Conference held in Geneva. Credit: ECW

From climate change to child marriage, education is seen as the solution. ECW Director Yasmine Sherif protests early marriage with young delegates at the Education Cannot Wait Conference held in Geneva. Credit: ECW

By Joyce Chimbi
GENEVA & NAIROBI, Feb 17 2023 (IPS)

From southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia, the most severe drought in the last 40 years is unfolding. It is simply too hot to go to school on an empty stomach, and close to 3 million children are out of school, with an additional 4 million at risk of dropping out entirely across the Horn of Africa.

Further afield, months after unprecedented floods and landslides ravaged Pakistan, villages remain underwater, and millions of children still need lifesaving support. More recently, while children were sleeping, a most devastating earthquake intruded, and an estimated 2.5 million children in Syria and 4.6 million children in Turkey were affected.

Today, child delegates from Nigeria and Colombia told the world that climate change is ruining their childhood and the world must act now, for 222 million dreams are at stake. They were speaking at the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference held in Geneva.


Nafisa from Nigeria reminded delegates at the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference held in Geneva that the climate emergency is a child’s rights issue. Credit: ECW

Nafisa from Nigeria reminded delegates at the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference held in Geneva that the climate emergency is a child’s rights issue. Credit: ECW

“I am a girl champion with Save the Children and a member of the children’s parliament in Nigeria. Children are least responsible for the climate crisis, yet we bear the heaviest burden of its impact, now and in the future. Climate emergency is a child’s rights crisis, and suffering wears the face of a child,” said Nafisa.

In the spirit of listening to the most affected, most at risk, Pedro further spoke about Colombia’s vulnerability to climate change and the impact on children, and more so those in indigenous communities and those living with a disability, such as his 13-year-old cousin.

Pedro and Nafisa stressed that children must play a central role in responding to the climate crisis in every corner of the world. They said climate change affects education, and in turn, education has an important role.

This particular session was organized in partnership with the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies, Save the Children, and Plan International, in the backdrop of the first-ever High-Level Financing Conference organized in close collaboration with the Governments of Colombia, Germany, Niger, Norway, and South Sudan, ECW and Switzerland.

Birgitte Lange, CEO of Save the Children Norway, stressed that climate change is not only a threat to the future, “for the world’s 2.4 billion children, the climate crisis is a global emergency crisis today that is disrupting children and their education. Climate change contributes to, increases, and deepens the existing crisis of which children are carrying the burden.

“Last year, Save the Children held our biggest-ever dialogue, where we heard from at least 54,000 children in 41 countries around the world. They shared their thoughts on climate change and its consequences for them. Keeping children in school amidst a climate crisis is critical to the children’s well-being and their learning. Education plays a lifesaving role.”

Rana Tanveer Hussain, Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training in Pakistan, spoke of the severe impact of the floods on the country’s education system, “more than 34,000 public education institutions have been damaged or destroyed. At least 2.6 million students are affected. As many as 1 million children are at risk of dropping out of school altogether.

“During this crisis, ECW quickly came forward with great support, extending a grant of USD 5 million through the First Emergency Response Program in the floods-affected districts in September and October 2022, targeting 19,000 children thus far. In addition, ECW multiyear resilience program has also been leveraged to contribute to these great efforts. But the need is still great.”

Gregorius Yoris, a young leader representing Youth for Education in Emergencies in Indonesia, said despite children being at the forefront of the climate crisis, they have been furthest left behind in finding solutions to climate change.

Folly Bah Thibault, host and broadcast journalist, Al Jazeera and Founder and President, Elle Ira A L’Ecole Foundation Kesso Bah moderated the session on climate change in which child delegates told how children are being left furthest behind in the climate crisis. Credit: ECW

Folly Bah Thibault, broadcast journalist, Al Jazeera, and Founder and President, Elle Ira A L’Ecole Foundation Kesso Bah moderated the session on climate change in which child delegates told how children are being left furthest behind in the climate crisis. Credit: ECW

With one billion children, or nearly half of the world’s children living in countries at extremely high risk of climate change and environmental hazards, Dr Heike Kuhn, Head of Division, Education at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany, told participants it is time to raise climate resilient children.

“Weather-related disasters are growing, and young people are the most affected; we need three things in place: climate resilient schools, climate resilient teachers, and climate resilient students. We need climate-smart schools to stay safe when disaster strikes,” she explained.

“We must never forget about the teachers, for they must be agents of change, and teach children to use resources such as water and energy in a sustainable way. Children must also be taught how to behave during extreme weather changes such as earthquakes without leaving behind the most vulnerable children.”

As curtains fell on the landmark two-day conference, Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait, told participants, “The greatest feeling comes from the fact that all ECW’s stakeholders are here and we have raised these resources together, governments, civil society, UN agencies, private sector, Foundations.

“When I watched the panels and the engagements, I felt that everyone has that sense of ownership. Education Cannot Wait is yours. The success of this conference is a historic milestone for education in emergencies and protracted crises.”

In all, 17 donors announced pledges to ECW, including five contributions from new donors – a historic milestone for education in emergencies and protracted crises and ECW. Just over one month into the multilateral Fund’s new 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, these landmark commitments already amount to more than half of the USD 1.5 billion required to deliver on the Fund’s four-year Strategic Plan.

On the way forward, Sherif said ECW is already up and running, but with the additional USD 826 million, the Fund was getting a big leap forward toward the 20 million children and adolescents that will be supported with holistic child-centered education. This is in line with the new Strategic Plan, whose top priorities include localization, working with local organizations at grassroots levels, youths, and getting the children involved as well.

“We can no longer look at climate-induced disasters and education in silos. Conflict creates disruptions in education, so does climate-induced disasters and then the destiny of children and adolescents having to flee their home countries as refugees or forcefully displaced in-country,” she emphasized.

“Most of all, as we have seen in Afghanistan and across the globe, the right for every girl to access a quality education. And we are moving already, and that is where we are going from here. Thanks to the great contribution in the capital of humanitarian settings, we are bringing the development sector of education to those left furthest behind. Thank you, Switzerland, for hosting us.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Humanitarian Aid to Earthquake Victims Hindered by Politics– & Limited Access

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Headlines, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations

Credit: World Health Organization (WHO)

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 13 2023 (IPS) – As the toll in last week’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria exceeds a staggering 28,000 people dead and more than 78,000 injured–and counting– the United Nations is in an emergency-footing struggling to provide humanitarian aid, along with several international humanitarian organizations.

The devastated cities in both countries—by an earthquake described as one of the world’s top 10 deadliest in history at a magnitude of 7.8— are urgently in need of food, water, medicine, clothes and shelter—even as after-shocks have triggered the collapse of additional buildings with a new search for more survivors in a doomed scenario.

But the flow of aid is being hindered by several factors, including power politics, sanctions and limited border crossings in a 12-year long civil war in conflict-ridden Syria.

Asked about these limitations, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters last week: “This is the moment of unity, not to politicize or to divide, but it is obvious that we need massive support, and so I would be of course very happy if the Security Council could reach a consensus to allow for more crossings to be used, as we need also to increase our capacity to deliver on crossline operations into Idlib from Damascus.”

Over the years, Russia and China, two veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, have remained supportive of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the remaining three permanent members, the US, UK and France, have been critical of Assad’s authoritarian regime accused of war crimes and use of chemical weapons.

But the humanitarian crisis in Syria is not likely to change the power politics in a divided Security Council.

Louis Charbonneau, United Nations Director at Human Rights Watch, told IPS: “We hope the UN Security Council moves quickly and Russia won’t block expansion of cross-border aid, as the secretary-general has requested.”

But Security Council approval, he pointed out, is not a legal prerequisite to conduct cross-border aid operations into Syria. Cooperation from de facto authorities on both sides of any border, in line with humanitarian law obligations, is.

“If the Security Council is deadlocked, and the UN determines it’s feasible and safe, the UN should push ahead to address the crisis and help victims,” he declared.

The White Helmets, a civil society organization which has been operating in opposition-held areas in Syria, was critical of the slow movement of aid.

“Had international rescue teams come into Syria in the first hours, or even the second day, there was a big hope that these people who were under the ruins could have been brought out alive”, Mohamed al—Shibli of the White helmets was quoted as saying.

At his press briefing, Guterres said: the first United Nations convoy crossed into northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, and it included 6 trucks carrying shelter and other desperately needed relief supplies. “More help is on the way, but much more, much more is needed.”

But the New York Times ran a hard-hitting story February 10 under the headline: “UN Aid Trickles into Syria, but Residents say it is too Little, too Late”.

Still, the UN and its agencies have responded with all the means at their disposal, including assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN children’s agency UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), among others, and a task force led by the Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths.

After his arrival in the Syrian capital February 12, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria
Geir O. Pedersen told reporters the earthquake was “one of the biggest humanitarian or natural disasters that we have seen recently”.

While expressing his condolences, he said: “And I think, you know, when we see the images, the heartbreaking images, we really feel the suffering. But we’re also seeing a lot of heroism, you see, you know, individuals, civilians, humanitarians trying to save lives, and it is this effort that we need to support.”

He assured that “the UN humanitarian family will do whatever they can to reach out to everyone that needs support. So, we are trying to mobilize whatever support there is. We are reaching out to countries, we are mobilizing funding, and we’re trying to tell everyone to put politics aside because this is a time to unite behind a common effort to support the Syrian people”.

Still, Pendersen said: “We need all the access we can have, crossline, cross-border and we need more resources. So, I’m in close touch with the UN humanitarian family, we’re working together to try to mobilize this support and that of course is my key message during this visit to Syria.

The issue of access was also raised by the US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield who said last week that she spoke with Presidents of InterAction and the International Rescue Committee, who both underscored the dire situation on the ground as humanitarian workers and first responders attempt to save lives while also facing personal tragedy.

She also spoke with representatives of Save the Children, CARE, and the White Helmets, who described the urgent need for shelter, clean water, and cash assistance, as well as increased access into Syria to allow local NGOs to deliver life-saving aid.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield voiced U.S. support for additional cross-border access points from Türkiye into northwest Syria to facilitate deliveries of earthquake-specific aid. She commended the search and rescue efforts by the White Helmets, which have saved thousands of people from collapsed buildings in northern Syria.

So far, the UN has released about $50 million from its emergency fund. But it is making a “Flash Appeal” for more funds from the international community.

Asked how much was needed, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said February 9: “We are trying to figure out how much. We’re still doing the needs assessment and I would also encourage – the public can also give through on the OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) website, the UN Foundation websites. There are ways for people, for the public to give to the appeal,” he said.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Turkey has also been tainted with domestic politics. The slow or belated response has been blamed on the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, up for re-election on May 14.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the opposition party and a potential presidential candidate, was quoted as saying: “It is the ruling party that has not prepared the country for an earthquake for 20 years”.

IPS UN Bureau Report